"The Conference is not a panacea or a solution to all problems. We must listen to all voices, whether they are critical or complementary. But I do believe that this Conference is a real opportunity to bring Europeans together and unite around a common ambition for our future, just as previous generations did"
Ursula VON DER LEYEN
The Conference on the Future of Europe has begun. Over the coming year, Europeans are being asked for their input to shape the future of the European Union. Let us build together a stronger, more resilient, more democratic and more united Europe.
After launching the Digital Platform, the interest that citizens have shown has been very reassuring. In its first three weeks, the platform has gathered 7,600 participants, which have published more than 1500 suggestions. So far, they have organised more than 400 events and forums, and the number of people interested in participating is growing every day.
1. Rules of the game
The Conference Executive Board approved on 9 May the Rules of Procedure that set out the composition of the Plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe, and how it will work.
The Conference Plenary will be composed of:
- 108 representatives from the European Parliament,
- 54 from the Council (two per Member State) and 3 from the European Commission,
- as well as 108 representatives from all national Parliaments on an equal footing, and citizens.
- 108 Citizens will also participate to discuss citizens' ideas stemming from the citizens' panels and the Multilingual Digital Platform: 80 representatives from the European Citizens’ Panels, of which at least one-third will be younger than 25, and 27 from national Citizens’ Panels or Conference events (one per Member State), as well as the President of the European Youth Forum.
- Some 18 representatives from both the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, and another eight from both social partners and civil society will also take part, while the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be invited when the international role of the EU is discussed. Representatives of key stakeholders may also be invited. The Conference Plenary will be gender-balanced.
Their exchanges will be structured thematically around recommendations from the Citizens’ Panels and input gathered from the Multilingual Digital Platform. The Platform is the single place where input from all Conference-related events will be collected, analysed and published. In due course, the Plenary will submit its proposals to the Executive Board, who will draw up a report in full collaboration and full transparency with the Plenary, and which will be published on the Multilingual Digital Platform.
The final outcome of the Conference will be presented in a report to the Joint Presidency. The three institutions will examine swiftly how to follow up effectively this report, each within their own sphere of competences and in accordance with the Treaties.
2. Official launch of the Conference
On May 9, European Union presidents finally opened the CoFoE in Strasbourg, France, after it was cancelled more than a year ago due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Presidents of the EU institutions delivered speeches on their vision for Europe, following a welcome speech by President Macron, while the Co-Chairs of the Executive Board answered questions posed by citizens from across EU Member States. 27 Erasmus students from across the EU, together with members of the Conference's Executive Board were physically present in the Parliament’s hemicycle, and over 500 citizens attended the event remotely through large TV screens. Ministers for European affairs, Members of the European Parliament and national parliaments, and other VIP guests also joined remotely.
At the opening, EU presidents agreed to draw lessons from the health emergency in order to act more quickly in the face of possible new crises, invest in research and science, and move towards greater integration of the community bloc.
"It would be a defeat to leave this conference without a response to health," said the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, pointing to lessons to be learned more than a year after the world was shocked by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Macron, host of the event, advocated strengthening the bloc's economic and political model, which he believes has benefited the European community in times of crisis, at least compared to other nations. "Our model is our strength and we have managed to resist together. We have managed a rapid response together, we built a vaccination campaign and we made it happen," the French head of state maintained. However, Macron also urged to act faster to end the emergency, acquire greater competences in areas such as health and address "essential" issues such as research and investments.
According to President von der Leyen, "The conference is not a panacea or a solution to all problems. We must listen to all voices, whether they are critical or complementary, it is a real opportunity to bring Europeans together and unite around a common ambition for our future."
Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa stressed that citizens are looking for the EU to focus on providing direct answers to concrete problems.
This position was echoed by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, who said that "the point is that the EU must be what Europeans want it to be", while she especially encouraged young people to have their say after more than a year of pandemic.
Watch specific segments by clicking on the corresponding links below:
- Welcome speech by Emmanuel Macron, President of France
- Speech by David Sassoli, European Parliament President
- Speech by António Costa, Prime Minister of Portugal for the Presidency of the Council of the EU
- Speech by Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President
- Interventions by the Co-Chairs of the Executive Board: Guy Verhofstadt (Parliament), Ana Paula Zacarias (Council) and Dubravka Šuica (Commission)
- Or watch the entire event - including performances by Violinist Renaud Capuçon and the Karski quartet.
3. Civil society speaks up
During this week a bunch of civil society organisations as well as european personalities have raised their voices on the CoFoE calling for action.
Former High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, said to Euractiv that the Conference on the Future of Europe will provide a valuable framework to redefine the EU’s international role. However, to find the right answers, we must first ask the right questions. The Conference on the Future of Europe can catalyse much-needed reflection on how to revamp the EU’s external action. But, most importantly, if the EU wants to secure its position as a top-tier geopolitical player, it should overcome self-doubt and learn by doing, writes Javier Solana.
The Conference on the Future of Europe can contribute to this process if it genuinely and concretely involves our local communities and if it gives voice to people in our regions, cities and villages. This is key to avoid a top-down exercise that would only feed the demagogic and anti-European false narrative of populists and eurosceptics. With the CoFoE, the European Committee of the Regions, would like to establish a strong regional and local dimension of the entire conference in all EU member states, by engaging with citizens at regional and local level.
UEF, together with the Spinelli Group and supported by the European Movement International, we have launched the Appeal “Our federal Europe: sovereign and democratic”, in which we have summarised our ideas for the future. Today, we need and want a strong, legitimate, and properly financed political Union that can tackle the great transnational challenges of our time, acting decisively in a wide range of policy areas, from climate change, growing social inequalities, health and migration to foreign affairs and defence. Moreover, we are calling for stronger pan-European democracy — real European political parties and movements and proper campaigns for European elections, based on the creation of a pan-European constituency and transnational electoral lists headed by the candidates for President of the European Commission. We are striving for a Union that is both a community of destiny and values and a model for the new world now taking shape - an example of how countries can live in peace together, build cross-border and social solidarity, and protect human rights, the rule of law, and fundamental freedoms.
The initial signatories were: Sandro GOZI, Brando BENIFEI, Eva MAYDELL, Esteban GONZÁLEZ PONS, Domènec RUIZ DEVESA, Gabriele BISCHOFF, Pascal DURAND, Daniel FREUND, Damian BOESELAGER, Dimitrios PAPADIMOULIS, Fabio Massimo CASTALDO.
By the time of the official launch of the Future of Europe Conference, more than 450 high-level personalities had joined the appeal. An overview of the list is available here.
4. EU Survey
A new Special Eurobarometer, published one day before the signing of the Joint Declaration by the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission, focusses on the Conference on the Future of Europe, measuring attitudes towards it and some of the key themes to be covered. This Conference aims to create a new public forum for an open, inclusive, transparent and structured debate with Europeans around the issues that matter to them and affect their everyday lives. The survey, conducted between October and November 2020 by Kantar, has been commissioned jointly by the European Parliament and the European Commission.
Two days ahead of the launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Parliament today published the results of its Eurobarometer survey on the future of Europe.
Around eight in ten Europeans (81%) agree that the Conference should prioritise dealing with how the EU could better handle crises such as the coronavirus outbreak, including more than a third (38%) who strongly agree.
Europeans who are willing to get involved in the Conference on the future of Europe would foremost like to do so through meetings in their local area, such as citizens’ debates or assemblies (44%). Citizens could contribute to the Conference’s ideas gathering process by answering a survey (34%), by putting forward ideas and proposals to European and national politicians (31%) and by taking part in online consultations via discussion platforms (30%), those surveyed said.
More than eight in ten Europeans (83%) agree that the Conference should specifically involve young people to foster new ideas, including four in ten (40%) who totally agreed.
5. What’s next?
The Executive Board will soon set the date for the first Conference Plenary meeting. Preparations for the Citizens’ Panels are underway, while the number of participants and events on the Conference’s Multilingual Digital Platform continue to grow. The Conference is committed to give maximum space to young people and in this vein, preparations for the European Youth Event organised by the European Parliament in October also continue.